Yesterday I talked about an iPhone 12 diagram supposedly ripped from a leaked internal iOS 14 build. Well, there were also a couple other diagrams leaked as well, one of which shows a new iPhone Home screen. Or, at least that’s how many people ran with it. What it really showed was a Rorschach test for whatever it is you secretly wish the iPhone Home screen, or Springboard, would look like.
And the first pic.twitter.com/X0QY86Xex3
— Jon Prosser (@jon_prosser) April 7, 2020
We’ll only know for sure when Apple shows off iOS 14, presumably in June.
But, what it does give me, right now, today, is this excuse to tell you what I want to see:
Constrained customization. That’s it.
But hear me out.
I want a grid that I can fill up any way I like, and configure however the mood strikes me.
First, I want a search box, a whole horizontal row. Like Spotlight is now, but always there if I want it to always be there.
Yeah, just like Android has had since Cupcake or beignets, or whatever. Good is good.
If my primary means of finding secondary or tertiary apps, buried somewhere on some Home screen in the stack, is to swipe down Spotlight and start typing, then just let me save myself that swipe. Just let me tap and start typing.
Also, in addition to letting me type out search queries, let me type out commands. Actions.
Basically, anything I can say to Siri to do I should be able to type to Spotlight. webOS, even BlackBerry 10, used to have this feature. It was great. It can be great again.
And I know, swiping down for spotlight isn’t hard. Talking to Siri isn’t hard. But not everyone experiences the world in the same way and the option for Spotlight and Siri object permanence and the ability to just type when it’s socially awkward to talk, or if you can’t talk, isn’t just a nice to have.
Second, complications, like on the Apple Watch. One by one, two by one, two by two. Four by one. Hey, maybe even four by two. You can call them widgets if you like but, to me, Apple Watch complications have always been more glanceable, more information-filled, and just flat-out more useful than any widget system. At least for me.
And I know… I know…. for years we’ve been told that people don’t use widgets. That they look nice but almost no one ever changes the defaults or interacts with them in any meaningful way. For non-nerds, they’re decorative. Ornamental.
That’s why the Mac Dashboard went away and modern Android phones are far cleaner than back in the glory days of HTC.
And maybe iPhone owners only want them because we don’t have them.
I’m willing to bet the company that’s been iterating on the Watch system for years could figure out Home screen complications. And Lock screen complications too.
Third, a row or more of Siri suggested apps. Siri don’t always talk good, but man alive are the suggested apps so almost always on point.
Thanks to a variety of signals from past behavior to current time and location, I can’t tell you how often I swipe down to Spotlight an app and it’s just already there, right there, staring back at me, good to go.
And I know… again, I know… it’s a slippery slope. When apps are static, always exactly where you expect them to be because they’re always exactly in the same place, you can build up muscle memory. You don’t have to scan for them. Don’t even have to think about them. There’s almost no cognitive load. You just tap, sometimes before you even realize it.
But having the same app in the same physical space is also limiting, because physical space is limited, and no two apps can occupy it at the same time.
Siri suggested apps add the element of time, effectively multiplying the space out towards infinity.
They could even work like Watch faces in a way, where you could set up a few different options based on time and location. Ones that are biased towards being at home or traveling, going to the Gym or when a game is on. Whatever.
Fourth would be those static apps, and for every reason I just said. There still needs to be a place for our most frequently used apps to be just exactly where we expect them to be, so we can hit them whenever we need them without a first thought, never mind a second.
The dock is already super static but it’s also super set in its ways. If you want to go crazy and have two rows, though, why should the dock stop you? It’s not the boss of you. Have two rows. Or a little arrow that pops it double, like Siri Suggested apps already have. Or, and I’m just spitballing here, an expander that opens it up to a full on app drawer that contains everything you’ve ever downloaded from the store, sorted how you like, in grid or in list view like the Watch does and some other rumors have already suggested for iOS 14.
That’s what I want. And if you just spent this entire video thinking, wait, all Rene’s really just done is describe the minus one Home page already does, you know, the Today View or widget screen or whatever you want to call it, if you think all I’ve just done is describe that with a few tweaks…
Well, then, you’re exactly right.
See, I think Apple’s been not-so-secretly experimenting on us for years with the minus one Home screen. Trying out all the less conventional, more interesting ideas there, safely adjacent to the good old — really old — main Home screen grid.
They’ve just never had the nerve to let us make it the main Home screen. To take it from minus to one. To flip a switch, demote the grid, and promote this admitted more complex but also more flexible system to prime time.
To do pretty much what the Apple Watch did from the very beginning and has gotten much better at in recent versions of watchOS — make the launcher not just a static launcher but a flexible, context sensitive informer as well.
I mean, I get it. Back when Steve Jobs introduced the original iPhone, with a Home screen that looks so very much like it still does today, it was never meant to be a destination. No one was meant to just sit on the Home screen and… abide.
It was meant to be a jump point. The place from which you could launch into any of a handful of apps at first, hundreds of thousands now.
Just like the Home button was meant to be an escape hatch. Something that jumped you back to a known state any time you finished what you were doing or simply got lost and wanted to go back.
Now, the Home button is fading and a better, more flexible, and yes, more complex gesture navigation system has taken its place.
So, maybe it’s time for the old Springboard to fade as well, and let the better, more flexible, and yes, more complex minus one Home screen take its place. If not as the default yet, than as an option for those who are ready.
Ready to stop chasing after our apps and to have those apps, their superficial information and modularized functionality, all come to us.